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Narrative of the Captivity of John Ortiz – Indian Captivities

John Ortiz, a Spaniard, Who was Eleven Years a Prisoner Among the Indians of Florida In the year 1528 Pamphilo de Narvaez, with a commission, constituting him governor of Florida, or “all the lands lying from the river of Palms to the cape of Florida,” sailed for that country with 400 foot and 20 horse, in five ships. With this expedition went a Spaniard, named John Ortiz, a native of Seville, whose connections were among the nobility of Castile. Although we have no account of what part Ortiz acted in Narvaez‘s expedition, or how he escaped its disastrous issue, yet it may not be deemed out of place to notice briefly here that issue. This Narvaez had acquired some notoriety by the manner in which he had executed a commission against Cortez. He had been ordered by the governor of Cuba to seize the destroyer of Mexico, but was himself overthrown and deserted by his men. On falling into the hands of Cortez, his arrogance did not forsake him, and he addressed him thus: “Esteem it good fortune that you have taken me prisoner.” “Nay,” replied Cortez, “it is the least of the things I have done in Mexico.” To return to the expedition of which we have promised to speak. Narvaez landed in Florida not very far from or perhaps at the Bay of Apalachee, in the month of April, and marched into the country with his men. They knew no other direction but that pointed out by the Indians, whom they compelled to act as guides. Their first disappointment was on their arrival at the village of...

Castaways, Deserters, Refugees and Pirates

There is no accurate measure of the number of shipwrecks along the South Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the number must be in the hundreds or even over a thousand. Also not known is how many shipwrecked sailors and passengers survived in North America during the 1500’s and 1600’s, or how many Sephardic Jews, Muslim Moors and European Protestants, escaping the Spanish Inquisition, landed on the shores of the present day Southeastern United States. Surviving archives, however, do furnish credible evidence of these peoples settling in the interior of the Southeast, while officially England was only colonizing the coastal regions.

Hernando De Soto

With seven ships of his own providing, and accompanied by from six hundred to one thousand warlike and energetic adventurers, many of whom were of noble rank, Hernando De Soto set sail, in the month of April, 1538. Upwards of a year was spent, mostly upon the island of Cuba, before the fleet set sail for the Florida coast. In the latter part of May, 1539, the vessels came to anchor off the bay of Espiritu Santo, now Tampa Bay, on the western sea-board, and a large division of soldiers, both horse and foot, were landed. The Indians had taken the alarm, and, although the smoke of their fires had been seen from shipboard in various directions, all had fled from the district, or lay concealed in the thickets. De Soto appears to have been desirous to proceed upon peaceable terms with the natives, but hostilities soon followed. Some skirmishes took place near the point of landing, and the Spaniards speedily possessed themselves of the nearest village, where were the head-quarters of the cacique Ucita or Hiriga. Here De Soto established himself in “the lord’s house,” which was built upon a mound by the seashore; while the soldiers used the materials of the other buildings in constructing barracks. At the inland extremity of the town stood the temple devoted by the Indians to religious observances. Over the entrance of this building was the wooden figure of a fowl, having the eyes gilded placed there for the purpose of ornament, or as symbolic of the tutelary deity of the place. Clearings were now made around the village, to give free...

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